Balanced effort lifts Bartlett to UEC crown
Bartlett senior guard George Betevis had plenty to be thankful for Saturday afternoon.
"I'm just glad we had a season," Betevis said following the Hawks' impressive 67-51 victory over East Aurora (8-3) in the Upstate Eight Conference Tournament championship game.
"It wasn't the typical senior season (without a state tournament), but we did what we set out to do," added Betevis, who scored 12 points with 9 rebounds, 6 assists, a pair of steals, and numerous floor burns while leading the Hawks' ballhandlers against the Tomcats' fierce defensive pressure.
Bartlett (12-4), which led 33-25 at halftime and 50-39 after 3 quarters, blew the game open with a 9-0 run during the first 2 ½ minutes of the fourth quarter while building a 20-point lead at 59-39.
The surge exemplified the Hawks' balance and included a 3-pointer from Clark Lewis (9 points), a putback by Ian Smith (10 points), Betevis' layup, and a pair of free throws from freshman guard Kelton McEwen (15 points, 5 rebounds).
"It's a great group of guys," said Betevis.
A group that included 7-foot-1 junior center Conrad Luczynski, who dominated inside with a team-high 16 points, 19 rebounds, and 7 blocked shots.
"I love to work hard," said Luczynski, who scored 8 of his team's 17 points in the third quarter. "My teammates love to feed me the ball, and it works out for all of us. Everyone played well."
"Conrad played a big game inside," said Wolfsmith. "He has improved leaps and bounds from last year. He has improved leaps and bounds from the beginning of the year."
One week earlier, East Aurora had handed Bartlett a 70-59 defeat in the regular season finale.
"Last week, the conference championship was decided so I played all my kids, and they (the Tomcats) played their game," said Wolfsmith. "This game, we did a much better job of taking away their fast break and taking away their easy transition baskets except for a couple minutes here and there.
"Plus, we knocked down some outside shots."
While McEwen and Lewis each added a pair of 3-pointers, freshman Nathan Scearce's banked-in 3-pointer beat the first-quarter buzzer to put the Hawks ahead to stay at 19-16.
"The first time we played them, they kind of got us out of our game," said Betevis. "Today, we were able to stay within ourselves. We didn't get rattled. We held our composure a lot better than the first time. We got more open looks, and we just played a lot better."
Wolfsmith couldn't have been happier with his team.
"It's a great mix of kids," said the coach. "It was a fun group to coach.
"Conference championship and conference tournament championship -- I am tremendously proud of how they came together under such trying circumstances."
Amarion Savage had 20 points for the Tomcats, who finished 1 of 20 from 3-point range and 4 for 13 at the free-throw line.